Let’s be frank, you don’t buy a Ferrari to enjoy it’s latest self driving tech, or a Lamborghini to achieve better mpg than your Jimny. Just like you don’t buy a Tesla to enjoy loud cold starts in the morning or compete in rev battles.
An AMG owner has their own reasons for paying $100k+ for the latest E63, so does a Tesla owner for paying $100k+ for the top of the range Model S Plaid+. Both car makers make it easy for buyers to choose from either sides depending on their needs. Both cars have different goals, but what happens when both cars merge down their goals into one? Such that the powertrains are same and the performance numbers are equal?
Stating the Obvious
Consumer behavior in the world of cars is largely influenced by brand loyalty. This loyalty stems from cultures forged many years ago depending on the history of the brand. Let’s put aside car enthusiasts for a minute and focus on regular car buyers. What factors contribute to their choice of cars? Here are a few of them:
- Family history of car ownership
- Consumer Reports
- Car Reviews
These are just a few factors, there are many more. They all influence brand loyalty in one way or another, and car buyers will make a repeat purchase if they have a connection with a specific brand. Loyal Mercedes C-Class owners for example will patiently wait for a new generation even if BMW releases a new 3-series gen 1 year ahead of the C-Class.
In today’s car industry, the difference between same class rivals is very thin. Stiff competition keeps every car manufacturer on their toes, whether it’s the move towards big infotainment screens, lighting technology or 48V mild hybrid technology – there is no room for lagging behind.
Now let’s get back to car enthusiasts including but not limited to those in the world of sports cars, sports SUVs, 4x4s and the likes. Here, brand loyalty is represented with greater magnitude. But what are the factors that mainly contribute to their buying trends? Let’s list a few of them:
- Powertrain (engine, gearbox)
- Performance numbers
Electric cars on the other hand take a different approach as discussed below.
How Could EVs affect our Buying Trends?
My view of the EV market is identical to that of Android smartphone market. With Android smartphones, there are dozens of current and upcoming manufacturers all aiming to get a larger share of the market. The same goes for EVs, current and upcoming car makers are working around the clock to grab whatever market share is available.
The tech is nearly identical and the goals are similar; these goals include:
- Long lasting batteries or long driving range
- Fast charging options
- Quick maintenance via over-the-air software updates
- Advanced Assistance Driving Systems
- AI integration (with infotainment)
Besides the ADS, the goals above are the very same ones that smartphone manufacturers aim for. There is very little room for being different in the world of smartphones today especially the Android based ones. At times, it comes down to design and marketing, everything else remains constant across the competition pool. Buyers are ready to switch brands if a new product with slightly better upgrades hits the market.
That could be the same direction EVs are headed to, a time will come when the field is leveled. Big screens running across the entire dashboard length, long driving ranges, faster charging that a smartphone, universal self driving tech and performance numbers to match a rocket in the case of sports cars.
When that happens, there will be little room for standing out and little room for buyers to stick to a brand without having second thoughts. But there will be plenty of room for reinterpretation of technology, so whoever has a better version of the former gets an upper hand. This is what you commonly know as “version 2.0” and the likes, hardware not necessary, could be a mere software upgrade.
Take for example the upcoming C63 4-cylinder Hybrid, i suppose the main selling point will be better performance numbers than any other C63 ever made, perhaps better than some Italian supercars. Its predecessor on the other hand was known and loved for being more than just a 500bhp sports car. It had character and a V8 engine, the latter is very important to state in today’s world before it becomes an offensive word.
So then, if it’s the numbers we are after, what is stopping an aspiring C63 owner from getting an electric performance sedan or coupe? They both lack in sound and character, but put down some very impressive numbers. We are talking 0-100km/h in under 3s and a possibility of a 300km/h top speed, these are foreign numbers on cars like the C63, but they are common in the world of EVs.
If all our favorite cars go electric, do we still follow them blindly with hands in our pockets? Or are we going to explore other relationships? The factors that once motivated us to stick to a brand have been replaced by new ones.
ICEs are very diverse, we have boxer engines, V8s, flat 6s, inline 6s, inline 4s and so on. And even if two manufacturers use the same engine configuration, the manner in which power is delivered tends to be unique. The sound is unique, the drive is unique, the overall product is unique and the performance is unique to that particular setup. There is more room for improvement with ICEs that with EVs.
Performance numbers will become the biggest selling point, that’s how Tesla rose to popularity with their performance based models. Forget build quality, for even Koreans can now match German build quality including interiors and they have equally matched EVs coming out every now and then.
We have accepted the new world order, that big performance engines are leaving us one by one, and driving a loud V8 will be likened to running through a forest setting fire to the trees. We will also have to accept that the days of “badge driving” are no longer beneficial to us if everyone is offering the same product with the only difference being packaging.